Stefano Pioli insists Milan are "focused" on domestic league objectives after Juventus' successful points deduction appeal saw the Rossoneri slip outside Serie A's top four.

The move to deduct Juventus 15 points in January due to alleged breaches in relation to historical transfers was reversed this week, lifting Massimiliano Allegri's side to third place in the Italian top flight.

Milan subsequently dropped to fifth – three points outside the Champions League qualifying places with eight matches remaining.

Fresh from reaching the Champions League semi-finals in midweek, Pioli's side return to Serie A action when they host Lecce on Sunday.

Last season's champions, Milan have won just once in their last six league matches, but their head coach is confident his players can address their recent struggles.

"The important thing is to stay focused on the things we can control," Pioli said at his pre-match press conference on Saturday. "The sooner there is a definitive position, the better.

"The Champions League is locked away in a vault, now we're reopening the league vault. We have to push hard, we don't want this position in the standings.

"It's not all in our hands. We need to claim a lot of points and the calendar gives us the chance to do it.

"There are eight games left, five at San Siro. We can finish the season well thanks to the qualities we have.

"What we've done so far doesn't matter, the most important match is tomorrow."

The race for Jude Bellingham's signature continues, with Liverpool having pulled out last week.

Numerous top clubs are keen on the 19-year-old England international who is contracted with Borussia Dortmund until 2025.

Bellingham signed his initial deal with Dortmund in 2020 but is set for a major pay rise if he moves or pens fresh terms.


Real Madrid are plotting a potential player swap-plus-cash deal to land Jude Bellingham in the off-season, according to Cadena SER.

Los Blancos are investigating potentially using Brahim Diaz, currently on loan at Milan, in a deal to help reduce Dortmund's reported €150 million asking price.

Madrid are currently in the process of extending the stays of veteran midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.


- Manchester City are preparing a new contract offer for Erling Haaland to ward off rivals interest from top clubs such as Real Madrid, claims The Athletic.

- Rafael Leao wants to stay with Milan following interest from Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, according to Manchester Evening News.

- Newcastle United have established contact with Ousmane Dembele's representatives to discuss a move for the Barcelona winger, claims 90min.

- Arsenal and Newcastle United are both interested in Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby, per Le10Sport.

- The Telegraph reports Chelsea have opted against pursing Luis Enrique as their new manager, instead turning their attention to former Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino. The Guardian claims Julian Nagelsmann remains Chelsea's top candidate.

- Tottenham will swoop on Chelsea's decision and look to appoint Enrique as Antonio Conte's replacement, according to The Express.

Milan have renewed Olivier Giroud's contract, with the France international reportedly agreeing to stay at the club until the end of next season.

Giroud joined Milan from Chelsea in 2021, and has scored 27 goals across 76 appearances.

The 36-year-old has netted 13 times this season, having played as Milan's first-choice striker in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has managed only four appearances this season following a long injury lay-off.

Giroud helped Milan progress to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2007 when he scored their opener in Tuesday's clash with Serie A leaders Napoli.

Victor Osimhen scored late on for Napoli, but Milan held firm to progress with a 2-1 aggregate victory.

Milan, who are fourth in Serie A, will face either Benfica or city rivals Inter in the last four.


Luciano Spalletti rued Napoli's inexperience and fitness issues proving costly after being dumped out of the Champions League by Milan on Tuesday.

A late Victor Osimhen strike cancelled out Olivier Giroud's opener in the quarter-final second leg, yet a 1-1 draw in Naples sent Milan through 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-0 win in last week's first meeting.

Spalletti was quick to credit a resolute Milan but suggested Napoli's lack of experience was an issue, coupled with fitness problems after Osimhen returned from injury after missing the first leg.

The Napoli coach told Mediaset: "We congratulate Milan for this qualification, that must be done because they have played two games managing to capitalise to the maximum [on their opportunities].

"This is a sign of a mature team, of players who know how to choose the moments: when to step on the accelerator and when you have to defend yourself with all the team.

"But I also want to congratulate my players. We played a Champions League campaign of the highest level and we played a good match tonight as well.

"We paid for a little inexperience in reading the moments of the match.

"We played with different players with a little tiredness, starting with Osimhen who had not played for twenty days."

Napoli have failed to progress from four of their five Champions League knockout rounds, with their only success coming in the round-of-16 tie this season against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Spalletti's side are also without a win in their last three games in all competitions (D2 L1), having gone winless in just three of their 16 previous games (W13 D1 L2).

A Scudetto will still likely follow with Napoli leading at the Serie A summit by 14 points, yet Spalletti acknowledged his side have slipped away after getting too comfortable following a March 19 victory at Torino.

He added: "We weren't good enough inside the penalty area to score, as they did the only time they came in.

"We were in good condition, both mentally and physically [in the first half], then after the break we found players not in condition and forcing our press a few times.

"The league win against Torino made us believe that the championship was a formality. During these two games, we did everything totally differently."

After seeing Frank Anguissa dismissed in the first leg, in which Ismael Bennacer's strike proved the difference in a 1-0 win for Milan, Spalletti was left frustrated with referee Istvan Kovacs.

Spalletti once again voiced his displeasure with the officiating, suggesting Szymon Marciniak should have awarded a first-half penalty for Rafael Leao's sliding tackle on Hirving Lozano.

"Tonight there's a clear penalty on Lozano in the 37th minute, very clearly, his ankle just twists," he continued. 

"You can see it very well in the replays. You risk twisting his ankle. It's a penalty you can't miss."

Stefano Pioli wanted to focus on enjoying Milan reaching the Champions League last four on Tuesday rather than a potential semi-final meeting with fierce rivals Inter.

Olivier Giroud's first-half strike proved the difference as Milan progressed 2-1 on aggregate past Napoli, who pulled a late goal back through Victor Osimhen at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

Inter could await in the next knockout round for Pioli's side if the Nerazzurri can overcome Benfica on Wednesday, Simone Inzaghi's side leading 2-0 on aggregate heading into the return leg at San Siro.

But Pioli was insistent on celebrating Milan's achievements in reaching their first Champions League semi-final since 2007 after a 1-1 draw sent them through in Naples.

"I prefer to enjoy this qualification, whoever happens will happen," the Milan coach said at his post-match press conference when asked about facing Inter.

"Whoever makes it through, it will be a great semi-final of the Champions League."

The last-four clash will mark Milan's seventh semi-final in UEFA's premier club competition, the joint-most from an Italian side along with Juventus since the Champions League rebrand in the 1992-93 term.

"Another big step that the group has climbed," Pioli added. 

"I thank the club for helping us and I'm happy for the fans who helped us to overcome difficult moments with their support."

Napoli have failed to progress from four of their five Champions League knockout ties, with their only success coming in the last-16 round this season against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Luciano Spalletti's side are also without a win in their last three games in all competitions (D2 L1), having failed to win just three of their 16 previous games (W13 D1 L2).

Yet Napoli will likely soon be crowned Serie A champions, leading the Scudetto race by 14 points with eight games remaining, which made the triumph even sweeter for Pioli.

He added: "Napoli will deservedly win the championship and we are all the more proud of having managed to eliminate them.

"We have put so much into these two games and we won."

Olivier Giroud's first-half strike proved the difference as Milan battled through to the Champions League last four with a 1-1 draw at Napoli to secure a 2-1 aggregate triumph.

Ismael Bennacer's goal last week at San Siro snatched a 1-0 quarter-final lead and Milan deservedly doubled their aggregate advantage in the first half on Tuesday in Naples.

Giroud had an earlier penalty saved by Alex Meret but made amends soon after with his 43rd-minute opener after Rafael Leao's incredible run to create the goal.

Victor Osimhen's stoppage-time strike offered Napoli hope after Khvicha Kvaratskhelia's 82nd-minute penalty was saved by Mike Maignan, but Milan held on to reach their first Champions League semi-final since 2007.

Matteo Politano twice whistled early efforts narrowly wide but the Rossoneri should have struck first when a clumsy Mario Rui lunge on Leao offered Milan a glorious chance from 12 yards.

Yet Meret guessed the right way to deny Giroud's spot-kick towards the bottom-right corner, before again thwarting the France veteran after another tame effort from a gilt-edged opportunity.

The Milan striker made no mistake next time round as Leao showed a remarkable turn of pace down the left before rolling across to Giroud for the simplest of tap-ins.

Victor Osimhen saw a strike ruled out for handball on the stroke of half-time and Kvaratskhelia blasted just over after the interval as Napoli searched for a response.

A Fikayo Tomori handball afforded Napoli a late opportunity to fight back into the clash, though Maignan dived low to his right to thwart Kvaratskhelia.

That penalty miss proved Osimhen's late header from Giacomo Raspadori's cross in vain as Milan battled through to the last four.

What does it mean? Milan frustrate Napoli once more

Runaway Serie A leaders Napoli have been by far and away the dominant force in Italy this season, yet Milan have had the edge over Luciano Spalletti's side.

The Rossoneri defeated Napoli twice in April, yet this draw will likely serve as the most punishing blow after Spalletti's men were sent crashing out of Europe in front of their vociferous home supporters.

A potential semi-final meeting with city rivals Inter awaits for Milan if the Nerazzurri can overcome Benfica in Wednesday's second leg. Simone Inzaghi's side lead the tie 2-0.

Giroud emulating fellow veteran Ibrahimovic

Giroud became the first Milan player to see a Champions League penalty saved since the 2005 final when Liverpool's Jerzy Dudek denied Andriy Shevchenko in the shootout, yet the France striker responded well.

The Milan striker's strike took him onto seven goal involvements in 10 European outings this term, only Zlatan Ibrahimovic has managed more for the Rossoneri in a single Champions League campaign (nine in 2011-12).

Not so super Mario

Rui had a game to forget after needlessly giving away the first-half penalty for an unnecessary and ill-timed lunge on Leao.

The left-back was fortunate to see his blushes spared by Meret but was forced off injured after just 34 minutes, having already lost possession a team-high nine times in a poor showing.

What's next?

Napoli return to Serie A action at Juventus on Sunday, when Milan host Lecce.

Frank Lampard's start to life back at Chelsea has not gone according to plan.

The Blues have lost all three of their games under Lampard, who was appointed on an interim basis earlier in April following Graham Potter's dismissal.

That run included a 2-0 defeat at Real Madrid in the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final tie, with Los Blancos heading to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday with a club record in their sights.

Tuesday's other game sees Serie A leaders Napoli go up against Milan, who lead 1-0 from the first leg of that all-Italian encounter.

With the help of Opta numbers, Stats Perform previews the first two Champions League matches of the week.


Chelsea v Real Madrid: Los Blancos hunting sixth straight knockout win

Madrid have won their last five Champions League knockout matches, their joint-longest winning run in knockout games in the competition.

All five wins have come against English teams, with only Barcelona (seven in a row between 2014 and 2016) having a longer winning run against English clubs.

Karim Benzema scored Madrid's opener in last week's 2-0 win at Santiago Bernabeu. The striker's last 11 Champions League goals have come against English teams, while his last 14 have all been in the knockout stages of the competition, the longest such run by a player in Champions League history. Benzema has 14 goals and two assists for Madrid in his last nine appearances in the knockout stages.

Madrid's second was teed up by Vinicius Junior, who has been involved in 20 goals in his last 20 Champions League appearances, scoring 10 goals and assisting 10 goals in this time. Since the start of last season, the Brazil winger is the only player to reach double figures for both goals and assists in the competition.

Madrid have progressed from 18 of their 19 Champions League ties after winning the first leg by two or more goals, failing only in 2003-04 against Monaco in the quarter-finals.

Chelsea do have some hope, however. They have progressed from five of their last seven Champions League ties when losing the first leg away from home, and done so in each of the last two when losing by two clear goals (vs Napoli in 2011-12 and Paris Saint-Germain in 2013-14).

The Blues have lost two of their last three European matches against Madrid (W1), both in Champions League quarter-finals across the last two campaigns. They had not lost any of their first five against them before this (W3 D2).


Napoli v Milan: Serie A leaders out to avoid third Rossoneri reverse

Napoli have already lost twice to Milan in April, losing 4-0 in Serie A at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium and 1-0 at San Siro in the first leg of this tie. The last side to beat them three times in one season was Lazio in the 1994-95 campaign.

The omens are good for Milan, who have won their last three away matches against Napoli, all in Serie A, their joint longest away winning run against them. 

Milan have not reached the Champions League semi-finals since the 2006-07 season, when they went on to win the competition. They have only been eliminated twice after winning the first leg of a knockout tie – in 2003-04 v Deportivo de La Coruna in the quarter-final (4-1 first leg, 0-4 second leg) and 2012-13 v Barcelona in the last 16 (2-0 first leg, 0-4 second leg).

Napoli are, however, unbeaten in their last 12 home Champions League matches (W9 D3) since a 4-2 defeat to Manchester City in November 2017. They have won their four home games this season, scoring at least three goals in each victory.

That being said, Napoli have been eliminated from their last 10 European knockout ties after losing the first leg, last progressing to the next round after suffering a first-leg deficit in the 1988-89 UEFA Cup quarter-final against Juventus.

Olivier Giroud could be crucial for Milan. The veteran campaigner has been directly involved in six goals in nine appearances in the Champions League this season (four goals and two assists) – the most by a Milan player in a single campaign since Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 2011-12 campaign (nine – five goals and four assists).

Luciano Spalletti confirmed Victor Osimhen will start Tuesday's Champions League clash with Milan after the fit-again Napoli star was denied by the woodwork on his return against Hellas Verona. 

Osimhen was sidelined for around three weeks after sustaining a groin injury while on international duty with Nigeria last month, returning to Napoli's bench for Saturday's frustrating goalless draw.

Striker Osimhen was introduced for the final 20 minutes and went closest to breaking the deadlock, crashing a fierce volley against the crossbar as the Serie A leaders were held.

Despite failing to add to his league-high tally of 21 goals this season, no Napoli player bettered his five touches in the Verona area throughout the course of the game.

Spalletti hopes Osimhen's outing will help him enter the Milan game - with Napoli 1-0 down in the tie - in top form, saying the mere sight of the striker lifted the crowd at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. 

"He'll be a starter against Milan," Spalletti said of Osimhen.

"He has this structure where you can throw the ball into him, or in the space, and he holds it. 

"He has many qualities. [Giacomo] Raspadori has almost all of them, but when we throw a long ball over his head, it becomes difficult for him. 

"Osimhen is now a favourite of the fans, so when he enters he always gives a breath of enthusiasm to the whole team.

"Players like him are made of different stuff, they have too many solutions to be normal, they have so many characteristics."

Asked why Napoli failed to make the breakthrough, Spalletti said: "We found a team that closed in and took the space away from us. We need to know how to fill the empty spaces. 

"Many difficulties came from Verona, a team used to wasting time, as they were also allowed to do tonight. I don't see the time we lost added anywhere."

While Napoli have won just one of their last four games across all competitions (D1 L2), they remain 14 points clear of second-placed Lazio and on course to win their first Scudetto since 1990.

Milan midfielder Tomasso Pobega bemoaned a missed opportunity in Serie A against Bologna.

Stefano Pioli's side fell behind with just 33 seconds played, with Pobega equalising five minutes before the break with a thunderous strike.

Despite dominating proceedings, Milan were unable to find a winner in the game and dropping points opens the door to rivals Inter and Atalanta in the hunt for a top-four finish and Champions League qualification.

Having been held to a draw, Milan could end the weekend outside of the top four and have testing fixtures to finish the season – including a trip to face Juventus on the final day.

While there has been plenty of attention on the two recent victories over Napoli, domestic form is a huge concern with Milan having just a solitary victory in their last six Serie A games.

Pobega is aware that Milan need to fare better in the coming weeks, though he is unsure as to why the side is struggling.

"We paid for the approach with the game, we made a mistake at the beginning," he told DAZN.

"It's too bad, we threw away points and it's not the first time. It hurts. We are preparing for the games as best we can, we have to start strong and score goals.

"We all train well, all strong, we wanted to make an impression today, and it's a shame. We needed to be more precise and incisive."

However, Pobega refuted the suggestion that Milan paid too much attention to Tuesday's second leg in the Champions League against Napoli.

"I don't think so, we were focused on this game. We gave so much today, we just have to look where we went wrong," he replied when asked if that was the case.

A weakened Milan side were held to a 1-1 draw in Serie A by Bologna at the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara.

With their focus clearly on the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie with Napoli, Stefano Pioli's side made 10 changes and fell behind to a Nicola Sansone strike inside the opening minute.

The early goal sparked some life into Milan's understudies, with Tomasso Pobega's fierce strike levelling the scores before the break.

Neither side could find a winning goal in the second half, with honours even and a result Bologna will be happier with.

Milan heavily rotated from the opening leg win against Napoli, only Mike Maignan retaining his spot between the posts, and he was picking the ball out the back of the net after just 33 seconds when Sansone met Stefan Posch's low cross and smashed home.

The visitors responded strongly, dominating possession, with Ante Rebic heading straight at Lukasz Skorupski before the Bologna shot stopper was forced into a diving save from Alessandro Florenzi's curling free-kick.

Milan's equaliser came five minutes before the break, Bologna unable to clear their lines properly and Pobega unleashing a fierce shot that cannoned off the inside of the left-hand post and into the back of the net.

A much quieter second half saw limited clear-cut opportunities for both sides, with Milan's attempts to pepper Skorupski's goal seeing a number of efforts fail to provide any sort of threat to the Polish keeper.

Rebic came closest to an equaliser, though not through skill as the chance instead saw an attempted clearance strike his head but fly wide of the mark, much to the relief of the home side.

Heavyweight clubs including Manchester City, Liverpool, Napoli and Milan are reportedly closely monitoring the exciting Celta Vigo midfielder Gabri Veiga due to his affordable release clause.

Veiga, 20, is enjoying the best season of his young career, with the skilful central midfielder forcing his way into manager Carlos Carvahal's best XI.

Playing mostly as an attacking midfielder, Veiga has racked up nine goals in 26 LaLiga appearances, earning his first call-up to the Spain Under-21 team along the way.

His play in one of the top leagues in the world has caught the eye of midfielder-hungry Champions League sides, with his release clause providing a more affordable alternative to some of the other top central midfielders on the market in the upcoming transfer window.



Veiga is said to have a €40million (£35m) release clause, which Galician newspaper Atlantico says has caught the attention of Manchester United, City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle United, Napoli and Milan.

The report states Celta Vigo are prepared for a big club to come and activate that clause in the off-season, and they will not budge or negotiate a lower figure.

The emergence of Veiga provides another option for clubs who have been closely following Brighton and Hove Albion 21-year-old Moises Caicedo, who is believed to be valued around £80m, or £100m-plus teenager Jude Bellingham of Borussia Dortmund.



– The Guardian is reporting Liverpool, Chelsea and United are the leading candidates in the chase for 24-year-old Brighton and Argentina standout Alexis Mac Allister, with quoting the player's father, Carlos, as saying: "It is most likely that Alexis will already be playing in another team next July."

– According to Foot Mercato, Nice are hoping to receive a €60m (£53m) fee in return for 22-year-old midfielder Khephren Thuram, with Paris Saint-Germain, Dortmund, Liverpool and City all said to be circling the France international.

Roma are reportedly in advanced talks with 24-year-old Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar ahead of his contract expiring in a few months, although they will face competition from Real Betis and Eintracht Frankfurt, per Fabrizio Romano.

– 90min is reporting Chelsea are confident they will be able to sign 24-year-old Mason Mount to a new long-term contract.

– According to CBS Sports, Al Nassr are targeting either Zinedine Zidane or Jose Mourinho as their future manager after the club where Cristiano Ronaldo plays fired Rudi Garcia.

Luciano Spalletti bemoaned Frank Anguissa's "unfair" dismissal as Napoli were dealt another absentee blow in Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final defeat at Milan.

The Napoli midfielder was dismissed for two bookable offences in the space of four second-half minutes as Ismael Bennacer's 40th-minute strike proved the difference in a 1-0 win for Milan at San Siro.

Spalletti was already without injured striker Victor Osimhen, and his replacement Giovanni Simeone, with Anguissa's suspension adding another name to Napoli's growing list of absentees.

The Napoli coach was left unimpressed by referee Istvan Kovacs' decisions but insisted the Serie A leaders have capable replacements heading into next week's return leg in Naples.

"I have nothing to say, commenting after the matches is wasted time, there's no turning back," Spalletti told Sky Sport.

"At this point, every absence is a blow for us, but we have someone who replace him. It's been like this for the whole season, otherwise we wouldn't have the results we have managed.

"We trust the group, but it's a pity we won't have Anguissa because I think it's unfair... It was planned to replace him, I was looking at who to bring on in the three substitutions, I was missing the third.

"The regret is that he played two more minutes while I decided. I'll think about what I did, the referee won't comment, [UEFA Referees' Committee chairman Roberto] Rosetti will do it.

"From what I've seen, Anguissa gets a lot of ball... Let's look at the yellow card for [Piotr] Zielinski and the one not given to [Rade] Krunic."

Milan have caused Napoli issues twice in the space of 10 days, hammering the Partenopei 4-0 in Serie A before overcoming Spalletti's side in Europe.

Stefano Pioli's men are the only team to beat Napoli more than once this season, with two of the Partenopei's five defeats coming against Milan.

The Rossoneri are also the only side to have stopped Napoli scoring in more than one match this term, while Milan have scored six goals this season against Spalletti's side – twice as many as any other team.

Spalletti was still pleased with what his side offered, though, and hailed the efforts of Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan, who made an impressive five saves.

He added: "We had a great attitude, I congratulate the team on how they tried to play the game, even outnumbered. And congratulations to Maignan."

Milan have progressed from seven of their previous nine two-legged ties in the Champions League knockout stages after winning the first clash, while they have lost just one of 10 all-Italian match-ups in Europe.

Yet Napoli captain Di Lorenzo remains confident when Pioli's men visit the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium for Tuesday's second leg.

The Italy international told Amazon Prime Video: "We are a quality squad, to go through you have to win at home, we hope there will be a good atmosphere, as always this year."

Stefano Pioli was left wishing Milan capitalised further against 10-man Napoli but insisted no first-leg result would ensure progression to the Champions League semi-final.

Ismael Bennacer's first goal in UEFA's top club competition proved the difference on Wednesday at San Siro as Milan secured a 1-0 lead to defend in Naples in eight days' time.

The Rossoneri perhaps could have compounded Napoli's misery, though, as Milan played the last 15 minutes with a one-man advantage following Frank Anguissa's dismissal for two quickfire bookable offences.

Milan have progressed from seven of their previous nine two-legged ties in the Champions League knockout stages after winning the first clash, though Pioli suggested Napoli could overturn any given deficit.

The Milan coach told Amazon Prime Video: "Napoli got off to a better start than us, we started badly at the beginning, they were more aggressive.

"Then we had a good game, we regret not taking advantage of the numerical superiority in the final [stages].

"It's a result that gives us a chance to go through. No result would have guaranteed qualification.

"Now we will go to Naples with confidence and concentration, we know the difficulties we will encounter."

Milan will head to the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium for Tuesday's quarter-final second leg buoyed with confidence from an impressive record against Napoli this season.

Pioli's side have inflicted two of Napoli's five defeats this term, with Milan the only team to beat the Serie A leaders more than once in the 2022-23 campaign.

The Rossoneri are also the only side to stop Napoli scoring in two separate games this term, keeping Luciano Spalletti's men at bay in Europe and a 4-0 thrashing of the Partenopei in Naples just 10 days ago.

Spalletti will hope for key striker Victor Osimhen to return from injury in time for the return leg, where Bennacer vowed Milan will "work even harder".

"We played well, we tried to do what the coach asked us and it worked," the Algeria international told Amazon Prime Video. 

"There's still one game left, we'll play [Bologna] in-between, we have to recover as best we can.

"Today we had a good attitude. We suffered, then we settled well, we were good man-for-man."

Ismael Bennacer scored the only goal of the game as Milan secured a slender Champions League quarter-final advantage over 10-man Napoli with a 1-0 win in Wednesday's first leg.

Just over a week after being thrashed 4-0 by Milan in Serie A, Napoli were the dominant force for large parts at San Siro – only for Bennacer to deal a sucker punch after 40 minutes.

The Algeria international's first Champions League goal proved the difference as Napoli, who had Frank Anguissa dismissed in the second half, were unable to respond without injured star striker Victor Osimhen.

Luciano Spalletti will hope to have Osimhen, and his replacement Giovanni Simeone, back fit for the return leg as Napoli bid to overturn a narrow deficit at home next Tuesday.

Rade Krunic's goal-line block denied Khvicha Kvaratskhelia with the goal gaping after his own errant pass teed up the Georgia winger with less than a minute on the clock.

Anguissa and Piotr Zielinksi both forced smart Mike Maignan saves soon after, before Rafael Leao wasted a glorious chance by dragging Milan's first opportunity wide.

Napoli did not heed that warning, though, as Brahim Diaz exchanged passes with Leao and flicked towards Bennacer, who smashed a left-footed strike past the helpless Alex Meret.

Milan should have doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time but Simon Kjaer headed against the crossbar from Theo Hernandez's corner.

Maignan tipped an Eljif Elmas header onto the crossbar after the interval, though Napoli's comeback hopes were halted with 16 minutes remaining when Anguissa was dismissed for two quickfire yellow cards.

Yet Milan still needed late heroics from Maignan, who parried wide from a late Giovanni Di Lorenzo header.

What does it mean? Advantage Milan after profligate Napoli showing

Earlier in the month, Milan handed Napoli their heaviest league defeat since December 2007 and their biggest margin of defeat in a home Serie A game since October 2000.

The Rossoneri's showing here was far less rampant and much more industrious, scoring with their first shot on target after Napoli had nine attempts – three of those testing Maignan – inside the opening 23 minutes.

Milan may not be able to rely on such fortune in the return leg, albeit they will head to Naples with a remarkable record – having lost just one of 10 all-Italian match-ups in Europe (W5 D4).


Brilliant Brahim

Brahim's genius was the key to unlocking the Napoli defence in the first half, spinning to take two players out the game before teeing up Bennacer from Leao's return pass.

That continued Brahim's strong form against Napoli with his third goal involvement when facing the Partenopei – his joint-most against an opponent in all competitions (along with Torino).

Rossoneri rumble Napoli defence again

Napoli have been the dominant force in Italy, and tipped as a European favourite by many, but the Partenopei have been unable to get to grips with Milan's attack this term.

Spalletti's side have conceded six times against Milan in all competitions this campaign, twice as many as they have against any other side (Cremonese, Ajax and Liverpool – all three).

What's next?

Before the return meeting at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, Napoli host Verona in Serie A on Saturday – three hours after Milan kick off at Bologna.

Luciano Spalletti wants Pep Guardiola and Paolo Maldini to know he is chief among their biggest fans, with the Napoli boss seeking to make peace with both men.

Speaking on the eve of his team's Champions League quarter-final against Milan, Spalletti stressed his recent spat with Rossoneri sporting director Maldini was no reflection of his admiration for the legendary former defender.

He also stressed he had no problems with Guardiola after recent toing and froing through the media.

Manchester City head coach Guardiola hailed Napoli as Europe's top team when the Champions League quarter-final line-up took shape, but that praise was palmed away by Spalletti.

The Napoli boss saw it as a ploy – "a game to build us up, so they can knock us down" – but he stressed on Tuesday he also recognised it as a compliment.

That was after Guardiola reacted on Monday to Spalletti's remarks by saying: "I don't want to talk about Napoli because the manager will be grumpy with me. So sensitive in Italy."

This time, Spalletti looked to calm the narrative.

"I learned a lot from Guardiola," Spalletti said. "Everyone has learnt something from Guardiola. For me, Guardiola is like [Jurgen] Klopp, [Roberto] De Zerbi, all the amazing managers.

"Guardiola, Klopp and De Zerbi are among the football managers I always look at. So if my expression was misunderstood by Guardiola, I'm sorry because I'm truly happy when a manager like him says good words about Napoli.

"It would take me days and days to appreciate Guardiola's former Barcelona."

A tunnel dispute involving Spalletti and Maldini was picked up by television cameras before the second half of Napoli's shock recent 4-0 home loss to Milan in Serie A.

He was quoted as describing Maldini's behaviour as being "disrespectful" shortly after the event.

According to Spalletti, that April 2 incident could be written off as "just standard chat" or a "small fight".

Napoli's 64-year-old coach even said he has a Maldini shirt on his wall at home and was "totally OK with him".

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